IT software technology is advancing at a rapid pace, with the internet of things, cloud, automation, and machine learning making networks and network management activities more complex and interdependent. As networks grow and become more complicated, it’s increasingly important for administrators to have access to the tools necessary to conduct essential network monitoring and management operations. One such tool is a network mapper, also known as a network topology mapper.
Unfortunately, choosing the right network mapping tool for your business isn’t easy. The market for network mapping software can leave buyers feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. Do you need an open-source network mapping tool, a free network mapping tool, or a commercial network mapper? Though some of these considerations will be decided by preference, others will come down to the range of each tool’s features, their suitability for business use, and their overall user-friendliness. To help you make the right decision and to save you from spending hours trawling the internet for information, we’ve reviewed the best network topology tools on the market in this guide. To account for a diverse range of needs, we’ve included free network mapping tools, open-source network mapping tools, and commercial network mapping tools.
Overall, SolarWinds® Network Topology Mapper comes most highly recommended. This network topology tool is well-suited for businesses small and large, as it provides a scalable but user-friendly network mapping solution. If you’d like to try SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper, a 14-day free trial is available. Read on to find out how other tools compare.
What Is Network Mapping?
Network mapping refers to a process involving logically and visually creating a map of a network to help users better understand how the different components connect. Network performance tools often include network mapping utilities because network mapping plays an important role in network optimization. There are also dedicated network mapping and network topology tools.
Network maps can be valuable resources, particularly when administrators are conducting performance monitoring activities. This is because maps can help administrators identify and locate performance bottlenecks, and they give administrators insight into how they can find opportunities for improvement. By leveraging network maps to inform network performance optimization, you can improve service quality for your end users.
The Best Network Mapping Software
To help you choose the right network mapping software for your company, here is our comparison of some of the best network topology tools on the market.
SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper is a highly sophisticated network topology tool offering a wide range of functionalities. This network mapping solution can automatically discover and map your complete network topology, displaying the structure and how each component connects in easy-to-interpret, dynamic diagrams.
Network Topology Mapper offers several discovery method options, including ICMP, CDP, SNMP, Hyper-V, WMI, and VMware. There are also multiple export options, with support for exports to PDF, PNG, and Microsoft Office Visio. Network Topology Mapper combines automation with the ability to perform manual tasks and adjustments when necessary, one of its many benefits. For example, you can manually connect devices on the network. You can also customize network node details for map objects.
This tool also lets users schedule updated exports to the Orion® Platform Network Atlas and create multiple maps from a single scan, which helps you save bandwidth and time. You can also schedule network scans to automatically detect changes in network topology and add any new devices to existing maps.
These are just a few examples of Network Topology Mapper’s comprehensive range of utilities. With its automated capabilities, this user-friendly network mapping tool can free up resources and time so your team can focus on other important operations. You can try Network Topology Mapper free for 14 days.
PRTG Network Monitor’s network mapping features include an auto-discovery utility designed to detect all your IT components, including firewalls, routers, switches, applications, servers, virtual servers, and storage systems. These components are integrated into network topology maps, which can be modified with the easy-to-use drag-and-drop map editor. You can leverage custom HTML to generate multi-layer maps, allowing you to drill down through the layers quickly and easily to identify and locate errors.
This is an extremely versatile tool offering capabilities far beyond network topology mapping. Because of this, PRTG Network Monitor is best suited for companies hoping to combine network mapping utilities with other monitoring solutions, such as server performance monitoring, virtual environment monitoring, or LAN monitoring.
PRTG Network Monitor includes 100 free sensors, which you can use to build your own network mapping tool. Although there is an obvious benefit to having a tool with so much flexibility, PRTG Network Monitor can be expensive once you use up your free sensors. A 30-day free trial of PRTG Network Monitor’s unlimited edition is available.
ManageEngine OpManager provides an automated network mapping solution designed to allow you to configure network maps with minimal effort and time. OpManager automatically generates a complete map of your IT infrastructure, classifying network devices and mapping them to a core router. With this tool, you can create 3-D visualizations of rack servers, detailed topology maps, and much more.
The network mapping tool included with OpManager is sophisticated and versatile, ensuring your network maps are always up-to-date by performing periodic network scans. This tool’s network maps can be customized according to your preferred layout and with network seed device details. OpManager also supports collaboration between team members and departments by allowing you to share network maps and diagrams. You can export to Microsoft Visio, making it especially easy to share and collaborate on maps.
OpManager’s network maps represent the most recent status of your network and use color-coded icons for ease of interpretation. These maps function like a real-time Visio diagram, allowing administrators to identify network issues at a glance and drill down into problematic devices. This tool helps you understand the relationship between parent and dependent devices and enables you to effectively prioritize network issues so you can kick-start remediation quickly.
You can download a 30-day free trial of OpManager here.
You can run Nmap on Linux, Windows, and macOS X and link it with other tools in the Nmap suite, including Ncat, Nping, Ndiff, and Zenmap. Getting used to Nmap can be challenging, as it comes with an initial learning curve, but once you’re familiar with the tool, it can be useful. As a free tool, it’s unlikely to be scalable enough for business use. You can download Nmap here.
Datadog, a big name in IT infrastructure monitoring and management, provides a network performance monitoring tool with a tag-based approach to network mapping. This tool can monitor performance for both cloud-based and on-premises networks, and it offers an impressive range of network monitoring utilities. This includes the ability to map network traffic flow between containers, hosts, availability zones, teams, services, and any other useful tag category.
With Datadog Network Performance Monitoring, you can gain full visibility into your network’s traffic as well as infrastructure metrics, logs, and traces. You can access all this information through the centralized, user-friendly console. By combining metric-based and flow-based monitoring, this tool gives you deep insight into your network environment. With this solution, network topology maps are interactive, which allows you to engage directly with the data and assists with rapid identification of traffic bottlenecks.
As a solution you can use with hybrid and cloud-based networks, Datadog Network Performance Monitoring has some notable advantages. It’s easy to use and navigate, although some users have reported the console feels cluttered. You can sign up for a 14-day free trial of Datadog here.
6. Nagios XI
Nagios XI is another open-source network mapping tool well-known as a powerful and dependable solution. Nagios XI can provide comprehensive and efficient network and IT infrastructure monitoring, offering a centralized view of your network and everything happening within it.
This tool features a customizable dashboard where you can view network devices, hosts, and services. From here, administrators can proactively view and troubleshoot network problems. Other key features include automated network discovery, support for bulk host imports, and the ability to save your latest configurations.
With Nagios XI’s intelligent user interface, you can customize the program’s design and layout as well as your user preferences. This secure solution makes setting up and managing user accounts easy. Although it’s well suited to users who prefer the flexibility of open-source solutions, Nagios XI is unlikely to be appropriate for enterprise environments. You can download Nagios XI here.
Choosing the Right Network Mapper
As this guide has demonstrated, there are plenty of options available on the market for businesses and IT professionals looking for a network topology mapping tool. Overall, the most versatile and reliable of these products is SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper. This tool offers a specialized and comprehensive approach to network mapping, giving you access to all the capabilities necessary to support and streamline your network monitoring and management activities. If you’d like to try SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper, a 14-day free trial is available.